Proprietary USB-C fast charging was once a necessary evil, now it’s just a bad thing

OnePlus 9 Warp Charge 65T review
Robert Triggs / Android Authority

Your next smartphone probably won’t ship with a charger in the box. I’m not just talking about expensive flagship devices here – we’ve noticed a growing number of mid-range devices following this trend. The Samsung Galaxy A53 and Nothing Phone 1, two popular budget choices for 2022, don’t ship with a charger. And if there’s anything we’ve learned from the headphone jack’s demise, it’s that more companies will eventually follow suit.

Given this inevitable, then, the time has come for manufacturers to abandon proprietary charging protocols in favor of universal standards, and here’s why.

Our guide: How wired and wireless fast charging works

No (proprietary) charger in the box: a worrying future?

Google USB-C power adapter 30W upright on wooden beam
Robert Triggs / Android Authority

While Samsung and Nothing have drawn some criticism for making the charger a separate purchase, many users can certainly get by without buying one. This is because both companies rely on the universal USB Power Delivery standard for fast charging. Despite what the name would have you believe, Samsung Super Fast Charging is not a proprietary standard. Instead, it is based on the USB-PD Programmable Power Supply (PPS) specification.

In practical terms, you can use any PPS-compatible charger, even third-party ones, to charge a modern Samsung device. However, the same is not true of many other smartphone brands, including Xiaomi, OnePlus, and Oppo, to name a few. These brands are now at the forefront of smartphone fast charging technology, with their respective protocols supporting up to 150W of power. However, if you’ve used a USB-PD charger with these devices, they’ve historically only pulled 18 or 27W off the wall.

Modern smartphones with proprietary charging can charge at breakneck speeds, but they only support a paltry 27W via USB Power Delivery.

It goes without saying that this disparity is a cause for concern. Most of us don’t own a SuperVOOC charger, so if Oppo stopped including chargers in the box, you would have no choice but to buy one. You can usually mix and match chargers from OnePlus, Oppo, and Realme, but that’s only because they’re all based on the same underlying technology. Conversely, USB Power Delivery has become almost universal these days and you will find it supported on everything from Macbooks to Bluetooth speakers.

Related: 100W, 150W, 240W? Wired charging power has become meaningless

This split is further compounded by the fact that brands are now engaged in a ruthless race to achieve the fastest possible charging times with each new generation. It is common to see new smartphones supporting twice the charging power than their direct predecessor. OnePlus, for example, went from 30W to 150W in just three years. While the brand is currently bundling the chargers with new devices, what if that commitment ends?

Even if you have the right proprietary charger, it may be slower than what your new device supports. So if you upgrade to a new charger, the old one becomes practically useless as it won’t charge any of your other devices quickly. In short, it is a vicious circle. Not to mention the extra electronic waste it causes.

Because a universal charging standard makes sense

Belkin Boost Charge Dual USB C PD GaN mode

Robert Triggs / Android Authority

Based on everything we’ve discussed so far, it’s clear that proprietary charging technology doesn’t belong to a tech landscape that is moving more and more towards interoperability.

Adopting a universal standard like USB Power Delivery won’t solve the problem of USB-C fragmentation overnight, but it will at least allow us to share chargers across multiple devices. Many devices such as laptops already support 100W charging via USB-PD today. And the new 240W specification should make the standard even more ubiquitous in the future. To that end, USB-PD compatible chargers should continue to get cheaper as more and more devices support them.

The widespread adoption of USB Power Delivery will result in more competition and lower prices.

Already today, for the price of a Samsung or Google-branded charging brick, you could buy a third-party adapter that offers more charging power or more ports. Sadly, this isn’t possible in the world of proprietary charging, where you have no choice but to spend $ 30 to $ 50 for a first-party adapter that may not even work with any of your other devices.

Our choices: The best wall chargers

The problem goes far beyond the world of wall chargers. Portable power banks and car chargers do not support proprietary protocols. What’s worse, it’s not always possible to find a proprietary option either. As with wall outlets, charging power in these situations often drops to 10W or 18W, which is unacceptable for most modern smartphone users.

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Oppo phone charging via SuperVOOC
Harley Maranan / Android Authority

As much as I hate to admit it, proprietary charging protocols are likely to remain around, at least for the foreseeable future. The brands have long claimed that their respective charging technologies do a better job of preserving battery health than the competition.

Earlier this year, Oppo said its Battery Health Engine in the Find X5 Pro enabled the battery to sustain 1,600 charge cycles before losing 20% ​​of its capacity. Xiaomi also made a similar, albeit more conservative, claim when it debuted its HyperCharge fast charging technology.

Proprietary protocols may not go away overnight due to battery health issues.

In fact, you’ve probably heard countless times that battery health can deteriorate significantly without proper precautions. Oppo claims to have managed to avoid this potential trap by using a proprietary algorithm that constantly adjusts the charging current. He has also perfected the chemistry of his lithium-ion batteries for better longevity.

Related: 6 common battery myths you probably believe in

While we take battery health claims literally, it’s unclear why these measures can’t be implemented alongside universal standards like USB-PD. After all, the latest specification of the USB programmable power supply already supports varying voltage and current levels.

If proprietary protocols are really needed, however, the least manufacturers can do is improve compatibility with open standards. We’ve seen a handful of moves in this direction, such as Oppo’s line of mini flash chargers with support for both SuperVOOC and USB-PD PPS charging. While the company has yet to show any inclination to sell them outside of China, OnePlus has apparently made the first move.

The OnePlus 10T comes with a 150W SuperVOOC charger that also includes support for USB-PD, up to 45W. While that’s far from the 65W (or even 100W) required by many laptops, this move is hopefully a sign. that the days of proprietary single-use chargers are numbered.

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